It feels wrong to say I’ve missed Captain Black Jack Randall. After all, he’s a despicable sadist who’s only brought pain and suffering into our heroes’ lives. But his appearance (or “resurrection,” as it were) at the French court put into stark relief just how insufficient the Comte St. Germain is as a villainous foil — he’s mostly just a stuck-up rich guy; the French equivalent of James Spader in a John Hughes movie. Plus, Tobias Menzies is just so damn fun to watch. So forgive me for saying, “Welcome Back, Jack.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
We pick up in the aftermath of last episode’s brawl, with Claire waiting for Jamie to return home after being arrested as part of the melee. The manner in which this portion of the Dragonfly in Amber source material manifested on-screen was a little curious to me. Producers have condensed time periods and narratives throughout this season (wisely in most cases), but this moment felt like it could have benefited from expansion. Where’s the tension and worry waiting for Jamie to be released? Given his past brushes with the law, it seems a missed opportunity to have him carted off and returned — thanks to a vouch from Duverney — in the span of, like, one minute of the show’s narrative.
After relaying the events of his release, Jamie explains to Claire how she earned those “La Dame Blanche” exclamations. You see, Jamie had spread the rumor that she was the mythological figure in order to explain why he wouldn’t indulge in prostitutes at Maison Elise. Claire’s initially angry, but the admission sparks a realization — it’s very likely the men who attacked Claire and Mary Hawkins frequent the whorehouse since they knew about this bit of gossip. And if Claire and Jamie can figure out their identities, perhaps they will lead them back to St. Germain. Murtagh later adds another clue to the investigation: The men are part of an aristocratic society that requires a maidenhead for entry. Yuck.
Claire pays a visit to Mary under the guise of giving her a medical exam. Mary says she hasn’t been allowed to go outside since the attack and is supposed to leave Paris as soon as she’s recovered. While grounded (because that’s what she is, really), Mary pens a letter to the Bastille, advocating for Alex’s release. She asks Claire to deliver it for her, and then wonders aloud if she might be pregnant. Claire doesn’t think so considering the rapist wasn’t able to, uh, finish. Another silver lining: Mary won’t have to marry the viscount now. Mary now has visions of marrying Alex, which won’t be happening either. Claire, knowing she has to protect the Jonathan Randall-Mary Hawkins ancestral line if Frank is ever to be born, convinces Alex that he is in too ill of health to take Mary as his bride: He’d only be a burden.
NEXT PAGE: Return of the Jack
Meanwhile, Jamie is being educated on the latest step in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grand scheme: The exiled monarch is about to come into 10,000 pounds sterling. How, you may be wondering? Well, Charles is getting in bed with the Comte. (Metaphorically, of course.) St. Germain wants to purchase a shipment of wine, but he needs a business partner to do so. Apparently, Charles has somehow secured a bank loan and will happily enter into an agreement to sell the wine for a profit. Jamie points out that the sum isn’t enough to mount a war, but Charles assures that it’ll at least be enough to secure a ship, arms, and fighting men. And Jamie’s involvement? Well, as you might have guessed, Charles wants him to be the wine merchant.
Following the prince’s wishes, Jamie takes a meeting with the Comte at Maison Elise to hash out their agreement. The meeting is obviously tense, with neither party willing to set aside his ego for even a minute. St. Germain demands that the wine remain in his possession until Jamie presents buyers. Jamie agrees. And this particular plan of action presents an opportunity: If Claire can secure an herb that mimics the symptoms of small pox, they may be able to doom the entire shipment, and by extension, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s profit.
And now, dear readers, we’ve arrived at that most chilling of moments: When, while walking the grounds of Versailles, Claire comes face-to-face with her greatest adversary, Black Jack Randall. He’s come to France to help his ailing brother. And it’s all Claire can do to remain composed. Her strolling companion Annalise asks if Claire needs Jamie, and the mere reference to the Scot sends Black Jack into barely-contained ecstasy.
“Jamie? He’s here? Where?” he asks in little more than a whisper.
After a brief, tense tête-à-tête, Claire attempts to walk off but is stopped by Black Jack. And then, all of the sudden, the King is upon them. And being the King, he feels no compulsion to hide his distaste for Black Jack. In fact, at one point after Jamie calmly joins the group, Louis instructs the Captain to get down on his knees and beg, which he does. The King laughs. As does Jamie. (A fine dressing down of Randall, indeed.)
It all finally becomes too much for Claire, and she excuses herself with Jamie following close behind. But he halts, and before Claire can stop him, returns to face Black Jack. In a moment the audience can’t hear, Jamie challenges him to a duel. (Which, you’ll recall, is illegal in France.) Claire has other plans, though, and runs to the Bastille to falsely accuse Black Jack of the attack on her and Mary. She knows he won’t stay in jail for long but needs the time to convince Jamie that his plan is all kinds of wrong. Jamie, in turn, is furious. How dare Claire deprive him of his vengeance! It’s then that Claire reveals her motivation: protecting Frank’s fate. She begs for just a year reprieve, and then she’ll help bleed Randall herself. Kissing his sword, Jamie finally concedes: One year.